Why I Don’t Pay For Autographs

The late Bob Will wanted a donation to
a children’s hospital for an autograph TTM.
However, he’d turn his reply into a Christmas
present, adding a photo, multi-page letter
or other surprises!

Please, stick with me. I need to do some thinking out loud.

I understand there are complete set autograph collectors. I understand some are team collectors. No matter what, the goal is to get one of everyone.

Whether that person wants to sign autographs or not.

I don’t view autographs as products. I know about eBay. I know about dealers and shows. And I know about fan mail handlers who convince once-free signers into charging, only to split the profits.

Sorry, I’m still idealistic. When I was in elementary school, I believed that the players who liked my letter replied, because of who I was and what I shared.

They, in return, shared their signature.

I still see autographs as gifts. We give a gift because of that connection, no matter how temporary or fleeting.

That’s why I don’t buy autographs or pay to coax the unwilling to sign.

I will share news of those sign-for-pay guys, especially those who are trying to benefit charity.

Meanwhile, I can’t shake the beliefs of the kid I was. I’ll keep sharing my stories in letters, hoping former players will do the same. Not because of the check enclosed or the autograph show ticket I bought.

Baseball Owners: Move Faster Than Cooperstown!

Famed owners haven’t always been highly-sought
autographs, nor eager signers. However, they’ve
remained regular correspondents. If you want
to find their autographs, start with their letters.

Letters are underrated.

Not just sending them. Getting one back.

In the case of baseball owners, I think you might have a better chance getting correspondence back than a signed ball, photo or card.


I’m guessing that George Steinbrenner will be the next team owner joining the Hall of Fame.

Studying up at www.sportscollectors.net, collectors were getting the “ebay defense” turndown even in 2006. Others found that he’d sign photos or balls, but not cards.

Sure, you’ll see letters from team owners with secretary-signed “signatures” or even autopens. However, if it’s a topic the owner cares about, bet the executive will have a personal say and signature on the paper.

If you wait until Cooperstown calls, it may be too late.

Goodbye, Virgil Trucks

Even in his final year, Virgil insisted on a signature
that denoted every letter in his name. He will be missed!

Winter storm Virgil brought some sad news.

When I saw the headline of the newest-named storm, I wrote to Carolyn Beckwith, the daughter of fabled pitcher Virgil Trucks. They both share a fine sense of humor. I knew that the pair would love the headlines of “Virgil” conquering America.

I was too late. “Fire” passed away Saturday at age 95.

According to the Detroit News tribute, this hobby hero wanted to sign autographs during his final days in the hospital. In his final months, he hadn’t been well enough to handle fan mail.

However, this baseball ambassador was legendary for his above-and-beyond replies to fan mail throughout his life. He shared his autograph philosophy in this 2011 blog feature.

Virgil’s funeral comes Thursday. The World War II veteran will be buried in a military cemetery.

As I spoke to Carolyn , I thanked her. Virgil’s family supported his eternal dedication to fan mail. In our last conversation, I asked him why he was so kind and thorough answering autograph requests of people who may not have even been alive during his career.

“We all love baseball,” he replied.

I’ll never forget Virgil Trucks. Amazingly, I don’t think he ever forgot any of us.

Pondering HOFer Pat Gillick

Don’t wait for
Cooperstown to
give you permission
to write to
front office heroes!

I was delighted with Pat Gillick’s detailed response he sent me in 2011.

He speculated on future baseball executives who could join him as Hall of Fame members.

Since hearing from Pat, I haven’t focused enough on baseball’s history makers in the front office.

Just today, I sent a letter to Roland Hemond. I heard him speak nearly 25 years ago at an American Legion World Series. After the speech, he told me that his philosophy as a general manager was to trade players one year too soon. He wanted to see that both teams got something worthwhile in a deal. He seemed like a kind, insightful man.

Cross your fingers for me.

Ump Shag Crawford Inspires

I told his story in 2010. The Shag Crawford tale bears repeating.

I have not focused enough on umpires in my recent letters. They’ve seen it all.

And there will be more Doug Harveys, more umps who make the Hall of Fame.

Most of all, I welcome these colorful characters. The Men In Blue could be blue.

I remember a SABR member once telling that he sent a questionnaire to Jocko Conlan. He received a HOF plaque postcard back, personalized to his name, with “Go To Hell, Best Wishes, Jocko Conlan.”

Wanting to tap my Iowa roots, I selected Don Denkinger as the next ump to get my letter. He’s in the 2012 Allen & Ginter set. I asked him about that and other topics.

Stay tuned…

Readers: what living ex-umps would you like to hear from most?